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Harvesting Resources in MMORPGs

I have always loved the act of going out to gather resources. There’s something so meaningful about the accumulation of raw resources, whether it be to take those resources and create something yourself, have someone else use them to make something for you, or to simply sell. Harvesting resources can be so much more than that, though, and should be if a MMO ever hopes to create a harvesting system that’s meaningful.

My days of meaningful crafting in MMOs were few, relatively speaking. My big claim to crafting fame was in SWG where I made millions and millions of credits as a Chef back in the early days when I could make various foods and drinks to radically improve people’s stats. I took those millions and invested them into a vast network of resource gathering harvesters (by purchasing other people’s slots to use them since you could only have one character). I took them resources and either used them, flipped them raw, or converted them into items that I then resold. At one point I even opened up a tailor shop and a weapons and armor shop where other crafters sold their goods on consignment — goods they made with my resources.

I’m a believer in harvesting resources being more than smacking a random node that then disappears. That’s lame, and I don’t find it ‘fun’ at all.

Resources should feel like they were built into the world, and harvesting them should feel like more than right clicking a node and walking away. I’m a fan of how UO handled harvesting resources — it was actually a full-time role you could play. I liked how SWG handled resource gathering in as much as it was something you could devote a significant amount of your playstyle toward; what I did not like, however, was littering the landscape with harvesters. Yet, at the same time, I love what those seas of harvesters meant. They meant there was a ‘real’ physical representation of a rare resource located there. People came to that spot because that spot had purpose.

When we talk about creating a meaningful gathering / harvesting system, my mind immediately goes to the size of the world and how the devs are creating the rest of the systems. Is the world small, or based on micro-experiences? Is the world ‘played-through’ or ‘lived in’? See where I’m going? Resource gathering works best in larger worlds with immersive ecosystems and economies rather than smaller worlds or worlds built with short-lived experiences meant to be played-through on the player’s journey to the end-game.

I simply can’t get excited about harvesting resources unless someone makes a MMO and tells me that a player can choose to be a miner as their main class, and that person being a miner means every bit as much to the game as someone who decides they want to be a warrior and go slay dragons.

  • I don’t think “smacking a random node that then disappears” is lame at all. I find it very relaxing and satisfying. It’s a perfectly acceptable form of gameplay.

    I also like systems where the “nodes” are more integrated into the world (trees that grow in fixed spots, veins of minerals that are always in the same place) but those have to have exhaustion and respawn timers, which can be somewhat contrary to the supposed realism they represent.

    There’s no reason gathering can’t be developed to have comparable progression to Adventuring or Crafting. Vanguard did that very effectively but then Vanguard had the best-designed progression systems of any MMORPG I’ve played. Other MMOs do it to some extent – EQ2 has pretty well-fleshed-out gathering, with lengthy gathering questlines, gathering gear, special gathering events and so forth, for example.

    There’s also no reason not to have all of these at once in the same game. Just because you can kill an animal using your Adventuring skills , equip a skinning knife made by a Crafter and skin it for hides using your Gathering skills which you then turn into Leather using your crafting skills doesn’t mean you can’t also randomly run across the carcass of a dead animal (a randomly spawning node) and gather leather from it using an innate, generic ability common to all characters. All it needs is for one to be more efficient and productive than the other and you have options for all.

  • I remember mining in UO, when you were encumbered you had to “drag” the rough ore to a forge to smelt it (often while sweating—worries a PK would show up)

    I made so much gold; I was able to afford my own smithy house. It was great (until my friend got the key stolen after he was ganked). These were the early days of UO.

    I wish resource collecting had that “magic” again.

    • The best part was getting a house in a prime spot next to the best areas to mine so you could quickly scoot home when needed.

      Not related to mining but I remember when Ultima Online 3D came out and the expansion land was accessible to 3D client users only. There were so few of us that I basically had free reign of the place. I had a maxed out provoker at the time so I could farm some of the best camps in the expansion without any worries. The gold and loot was flowing so fast there were many times I’d leave massive piles of gold and items just sitting on the ground as I ran back and forth to bank them. #goodmemories

      In any other area of the game I wouldn’t leave a single gold piece on the ground, let alone enchanted weapons or entire piles of gold!